With the exception of horse racing and charitable bingo (or “beano”), no other type of gambling has a longer history in Massachusetts than the lottery. The Mass Lottery sold its first ticket in March 1972 after the passage of its enabling legislation the year before. Since then, the lottery has generated more than $28 billion for Massachusetts and has paid out over $92 billion in prizes to people in the state.
Though the Mass Lottery is nearly five decades old, it remains a popular activity in the Bay State. Bay Staters can play draw games, instant win games, and keno contests. So, if you’re interested in playing the Mass Lottery, here’s a rundown on everything you can find.
As successful as it has been, the Massachusetts Lottery is a rather simple enterprise. Its roster of games divides quite neatly into two categories. The first category is draw games, which often come with higher payouts and increased media coverage. Whenever a lottery jackpot rises to the point that players who normally eschew the lottery are buying tickets, the tickets are almost always for draw games.
The other type of lottery game available through the Mass Lottery is the instant win game. These contests are also known as scratchers or scratch-offs due to how you play them. Typically, instant win games do not pay as well as draw games, but some of the higher buy-in options do come with the chance at jackpot-level prizes.
Massachusetts offers eight options that qualify as draw games. Within this group are games that restrict their sales just to Massachusetts. By default, these games tend to promise smaller potential payouts. However, it is still possible to win some big bucks on these games, so they are certainly worthy of attention.
The Numbers Game is a contest that offers potential winnings of nearly $4,700. It is possible to play for as little as a quarter ($0.25). Players choose up to four numbers between 0 and 9 and attempt to match them to a series of drawn numbers. Repeated numbers do not invalidate the ticket — a selection of 0000 is acceptable, although quite unlikely. Draws occur twice a day, and there are 10 ways to win each time.
Unsurprisingly, the first way to win the Numbers Game is to match as many of your four numbers to the drawn numbers as possible. A match of all four numbers pays the jackpot amount. However, one interesting aspect of betting on the Numbers Game is the presence of a set of wagers that have a similar structure to sports-style prop bets. Players may also bet on how often the drawn numbers repeat. A correct prediction of three matching numbers during a draw pays out at 2,500:1 odds.
Mass Cash is a standard lottery game that conducts draws daily. Players choose five numbers between 1 and 35 and attempt to match them to the numbers from the hopper. Winners must match at least three of their numbers in order to receive a payout, and those who correctly predict all five numbers win a flat $100,000 jackpot.
Each Mass Cash ticket costs $1. It is possible to purchase tickets for multiple drawings at the same time. Although the odds of matching all five numbers are nearly 1 in 325,000, it is not terribly uncommon to have at least one $100,000 winner during each day’s draw.
The Megabucks Doubler offers the largest jackpots of a single-state drawing in Massachusetts. The Mass Lottery seeds this jackpot with $500,000, but ticket sales commonly drive the pool into the millions. With this game, players must choose six numbers from 1 to 45 and, as usual, match them to six drawn numbers. Players also can purchase the Doubler option, which doubles any winnings aside from the jackpot.
Although a multimillion-dollar win sounds nice, it’s important to realize the astronomical odds at play with six selections out of 45 numbers. The odds of winning the grand prize in the Megabucks Doubler are a staggering 1 in 13,983,816. So, even if the prize is in the single-digit million range, it’s still not enough to justify the ticket.
The final Massachusetts draw game is a rare entry in the landscape of draw lottery games due to its mechanism of action. Most draw games tend to reward players as they match increasing amounts of numbers. Usually, players who do not hit a minimum number of matches win nothing.
In All or Nothing, players select 12 numbers from a list between 1 and 24. With these selections, the most likely outcome is that you will match roughly six of your choices. If you match more than seven numbers, you win a prize. However, if you match fewer than five numbers, you also win the prize. Players can win $100,000 for matching all 12, but they can also win $100,000 for matching no numbers whatsoever. So, if you’re incredibly lucky, you might take home a six-digit payday, but if you are a cooler … you might get six digits yourself.
The Mass Lottery’s version of keno proceeds much as it does at all-night buffets and coffee shops in casino towns around the country. Players use cards to select up to 12 numbers from 1 through 80. Then, the lottery randomly selects 20 numbers as the winning draws for the game designated on the card.
Your result depends on how many numbers you match on your card and the number of selections that you made. As the number of choices increases, so do the payout amounts — but the odds of not winning escalate, too. The odds of matching all 12 numbers and winning the $1 million prize are a staggering 1 in 478,261,833.14. As they say, however, you can’t win if you don’t play, and there are certainly plenty of chances. The Mass State Lottery holds a new keno drawing once every four minutes between 5:04 a.m. and 1 a.m.
Every game discussed above is for Massachusettsans and visitors to the Bay State alone. Because their jackpots depend on in-state ticket sales, there is a limit to how large the potential payouts can grow. However, there are two major multi-state draw games that people in the state can play if they want to take a shot at the really big money. Both of the following drawings have had individual jackpots that exceeded the $1 billion mark. Although the advertised jackpot for these games is an annuitized amount, the cash equivalent that winners can accept right away can still be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Powerball is a multi-state draw game available in 45 states, including Massachusetts, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. The game began in 1992, and its biggest drawing occurred in January 2016, when three winners split a jackpot of $1.586 billion — the largest jackpot prize in world history.
Each Powerball ticket costs $2. Players choose five numbers from 1 through 69, and a sixth Powerball number from 1 to 26. Since 2021, Powerball has conducted three drawings per week. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, the drawing occurs at 10:59 p.m. ET at a Florida Lottery studio. Winners can choose to receive their payout in 30 annual installments or as a lump sum. Generally speaking, the lump sum is between 50% and 75% of the advertised jackpot amount.
Mega Millions conducted its first drawing in September 1996. Six states, including Massachusetts, participated in the event under the game’s old moniker — The Big Game. Though its first jackpot to surpass the $1 billion mark did not come until 2018 — two years after rival Powerball’s record draw — Mega Millions is the only multi-state draw game to have two jackpots reach nine digits. In addition to the October 2018 event, a second billion-dollar draw occurred in January 2021. The October 2018 win remains a benchmark for lottery draws in its own right, due to the fact that a single winner matched all the numbers for the $1.537 billion jackpot. Both that figure and its cash value — $877.8 million — are the largest single-ticket payouts in world history.
Like Powerball, Mega Millions drawings cost $2 to enter. Players select five numbers from a list of 1 through 70 and a sixth number — the gold Mega Ball — from a separate list of 1 through 25. In addition, players can spend extra money to add the Megaplier — which increases any non-jackpot winnings by up to five times the amount. Draws occur on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 p.m. ET.
Instant win games are the other major type of lottery game available in Massachusetts. In contrast to draw games, which don’t resolve themselves until specified times, instant win games allow players to know the outcome in a matter of seconds. In terms of pure options, there are far more instant win games available in Massachusetts than draw games. In fact, at last count, there were well over 100 active options that people in the state could play.
Instant win game prizes tend to break down into two categories. The first type of prize is simply a lump sum payout. The advertised jackpot is exactly the amount that winners will receive. The other type of payout promises an annuity of some kind, where winners receive a specified amount at regular intervals. Both the interval and the amount change from game to game, but they essentially guarantee an income for someone for a certain period of time.
Within these options, there is a range of both purchase amounts and potential prizes. Some instant win tickets cost $1, while others cost as much as $30 to play. The $20 and $30 games typically offer the largest prizes — there are several options with million-dollar prizes, with some reaching as high as $15 million. The cheaper games, meanwhile, come with less-grand prizes.
Like most state lotteries, the Mass Lottery maintains its own app for players to use. So, can you buy lottery tickets online in Massachusetts? Unfortunately, also like most state lotteries, it is not possible to play the Massachusetts Lottery online through the app. Instead, the Mass Lottery app serves as an informational resource for patrons who want to check on the results of their tickets and/or watch some of the drawings live.
It is possible for players to submit a claim to have winnings between $601 and $5,000 sent directly to their bank accounts, however. They simply have to scan a qualifying ticket with their devices, and the option to claim the win will appear automatically. Generally speaking, the payment hits accounts within a few days, but it can take as long as a week.
There have been legislative efforts in the past to offer online lottery play in Massachusetts, and some pushes more recently, but none of them have been successful. Right now, most of the lawmaking effort concerning the lottery pertains to minor tweaks to the payment system. One of the more interesting bits of lottery legislation takes aim at littering of tickets and proposes a reduction of waste through a second chance game system on losing tickets. However, it is unlikely that lawmakers are particularly motivated to expand gambling in any form in the Bay State right now. The $5 billion surprise budget surplus has negated the push for extra revenue sources for the time being.
The only aspect of the Massachusetts state lottery that emulates iLottery is the season ticket program. It is possible to purchase entries for both in-state and multi-state draw games in advance through the Mass Lottery website or by phone. Players can buy tickets for up to the next six months’ worth of drawings at a discounted rate — there is an option for year-long purchases, as well, but it is temporarily unavailable, per the website.
Games that are available for play are Mass Cash, Megabucks Doubler, Mega Millions, Powerball, and Lucky for Life. After players register, their winnings are, by and large, mailed to them. Incredibly, it is possible to purchase Mass Cash and Megabucks Doubler season tickets from addresses outside of Massachusetts. So, oddly enough, it is possible to play the Mass Lottery from anywhere in the world, at least on a limited basis.
The Massachusetts Lottery has been offering its services to people in the state for roughly half a century. The Massachusetts Legislature authorized the creation of a commission and the sale of tickets in 1971 as a means of aid for the 351 cities and towns located in the state. The commission sold the first tickets in March 1972 and held the first drawing in state history in early April, roughly two weeks later. Seven lucky Massachusettsans won $50,000 in the inaugural drawing, which occurred at Faneuil Hall.
The Mass Lottery has been the source of a series of firsts in terms of US-based lotteries. In 1974, the commission became the first state lottery to offer instant win tickets for sale. The Instant Game debuted with a $10,000 jackpot as an alternative to the weekly draw games. Since then, instant win games or scratchers have become nearly ubiquitous as part of the offerings at most state lotteries across the US.
Massachusetts’ lottery was also part of the initial half-dozen states to partner for a large multi-state drawing in 1996. The drawing, which allowed Bay State players and other gamblers from Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, and Virginia to vie for a larger jackpot together, was called The Big Game. The drawing changed its handle in 2002 to what has become a more familiar one — Mega Millions.
Massachusetts also was the first state to offer instant win games branded with major sports team logos. Its Red Sox Instant Ticket in 2006 dangled the chance of lifetime season tickets to games at Fenway, and the New England Patriots Instant Ticket offered two chances to win up to $1 million during on-field activities at Pats’ home games.
In short, the Mass Lottery has been a mainstay in the Bay State for nearly 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down. It routinely returns more than $1 billion per year in revenue to the state and is available in thousands of locations.